In the wake of President Obama's economic policy speech, conservative media have refocused their attention to an outlandish comparison of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participation and job creation during the Obama administration, ignoring the fact that most SNAP participants are either children or are employed and that the program is considered an effective form of economic stimulus that can help create jobs and alleviate poverty.
Conservative Media Misleadingly Compare Job Creation And Nutrition Assistance
Fox's Kilmeade: Two Americans Added To Food Stamp Program For Every Job Created Under Obama Administration. On the July 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade compared job creation during the Obama administration to increased participation in nutrition assistance, claiming that two people were enrolled in SNAP for every job the Obama administration created. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/25/13]
Breitbart: Two Americans Added To Food Stamp Rolls For Every New Job. Linking to a CNSNews.com article, Breitbart.com's Warner Todd Huston compared jobs created to the growing enrollment in the nutrition assistance program as proof of Obama's failed economic agenda:
The White House has been touting the success of its economic agenda recently, claiming to have created 7.3 million jobs. But a look at the growing rolls of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) shows that for every job the administration says it created, two Americans have been added to the food stamp rolls. [Breitbart.com, 7/24/13]
Washington Times: Ratio Of Food Stamp Recipients To Job Creation Is 2-To-1. Citing Breitbart.com, The Washington Times claimed 16 million more recipients were added to SNAP registries since 2008:
In January of 2009, more than 32 million Americans received help from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which doles out food stamps. In April 2013, that number grew to almost 48 million. That means almost 16 million more American have jumped on the food stamp bandwagon since President Obama took office in 2008, Breitbart reported.
Meanwhile, the White House most recently claimed the creation of 7.2 million jobs, Breitbart reported.
Do the math: The ratio of food stamp recipients to job creation under Mr. Obama since 2008 is 2-to-1. [The Washington Times, 7/25/13]
Comparison Of SNAP Enrollment To Job Growth Ignores That Millions Of Participants Have Jobs, Are Children, Elderly
More Than Half Of SNAP Participants Are Children, Elderly. According to a 2012 Department of Agriculture report on characteristics of households that receive SNAP, 45 percent of participants were under age 18 and nearly 9 percent were age 60 or older. [Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, November 2012]
Many SNAP Participants Have Jobs. According to the USDA report summary, more than 30 percent of SNAP households had income in 2011, and 41 percent of total participants lived in a household with earnings. [Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, November 2012]
Growing Number Of SNAP Participants Predates Obama Administration. According to the 2012 report from the USDA, the number of SNAP participants grew substantially during the early 1990s. The number of eligible SNAP participants also began to rise in 2001, and the number of eligible households has increased almost every fiscal year through 2011:
SNAP participants declined steadily through 2000 but began to rise in 2001 and increased each year through 2011, except for a slight dip in 2007. The increase was substantial from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011. Average monthly participation increased from 17.2 million individuals in fiscal year 2000 to 40.3 million in fiscal year 2010, and to 44.7 million in fiscal year 2011. [Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, November 2012]
And Spending On SNAP Can Spur Economic Growth, Creating Jobs
CBPP: “Economists Consider SNAP One Of The Most Effective Forms Of Economic Stimulus.” According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “Economists consider SNAP one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus. Moody's Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity.” CBPP also noted: “Similarly, CBO rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective of all spending and tax options it examined for boosting growth and jobs in a weak economy.” [CBPP, 7/9/12]
Economist Mark Zandi: “Extending Food Stamps Is The Most Effective Way To Prime The Economy's Pump.” In his July 24, 2008, testimony before the House Committee on Small Business, Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com, stated:
An effective stimulus package could include a gas tax holiday, expansion of the food stamp program, a payroll tax holiday, aid to state governments, extension of the investment tax incentives, and increased infrastructure spending. The biggest lift from this stimulus would go to lower-income households struggling to pay soaring gasoline and food prices and to small businesses getting hit hardest in the current downturn.
Extending food stamps is the most effective way to prime the economy's pump. A $1 increase in food stamp payments boosts GDP by $1.73. People who receive these benefits are very hard-pressed and will spend any financial aid they receive within a few weeks. Because these programs are already operating, increased benefits can be quickly delivered to recipients. [Economy.com, 7/24/08]
Conservative Attacks Undermine Importance of Nutrition Assistance
Majority Of Nutrition Assistance Goes To Individuals In Poverty. According to the 2012 report from the USDA, the majority of SNAP expansion since 2009 has gone to individuals living in poverty. In fiscal year 2011, the most recent data available, 83 percent of recipients lived in households at or below the federal poverty guideline. [Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, November 2012]
CBPP: SNAP Kept Nearly 5 Million Out Of Poverty In 2011. CBPP's Off the Charts blog stated that SNAP kept 4.7 million people, including 2.1 million children, out of poverty in 2011. The CBPP also noted that the program also “helped almost 47 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month.”
SNAP Has Extremely Low Rates Of Fraud And Abuse. According to the USDA, SNAP fraud has fallen from 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to roughly 1 cent on the dollar from 2006 to 2008, the most recent data available. More than 99 percent of recipients are SNAP eligible, with a payment accuracy of 96.2 percent in 2011, an all-time high. [Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, accessed 7/25/2013 and 7/25/2013]